Thursday, February 4, 2016

ISS EVA-42 Completed

Cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko (L) and Sergey Volkov (R) suited up and ready to begin the spacewalk. Picture taken by Commander Scott Kelly on the ISS.
Early on Wednesday morning, two Russian cosmonauts of Expedition 46 exited the airlock and moved outside the International Space Station. Yuri Malenchenko was making his sixth EVA, and Sergey Volkov making his fourth. There have now been 193 EVA missions since the beginning of the ISS program, mostly dealing with the construction of the station module by module. In this EVA, the two spacewalkers placed some more grab holds on the modules for future spacewalks, and retrieved experiments and materials to be brought back inside the station. 
One of the tasks of the EVA was to release a canister containing a flash drive into space orbit. It contained messages and videos from Russians commemorating the 70th anniversary of Russia's Victory Day (the end of WW2).
 The canister is released.
I'll admit, this act might not have been thought out very well. I understand the benefit of involving the public in leaving their messages and words (albeit in electronic format - who will ever be able to read them?) in space, as it focuses the people on space exploration. After all, no bucks, no Buck Rogers. It's been a popular thing for NASA and other space projects to do. But normally the items are attached to a spacecraft or lander. This one was thrown into orbit behind the station. Now it was jettisoned in a way that it poses no risk to hitting the station in subsequent orbits. However, considering the vast problem that exists in Earth orbit with tens of thousands of pieces of space debris, was it wise to add yet another? Certainly no mission of the future will be trying to retrieve this canister - only people on Earth will have access to a backup of the project. And very few people will probably do that. And, if it eventually is pushed by solar radiation down to the Earth's upper atmosphere, it will burn up - so why put it up there to begin with? 

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